Business Development News

Aquaponics project hopes to bring fresh, locally produced fish to Cincinnati

Local, organic fish are difficult to come by in Cincinnati, and experts do not recommend consuming fish caught from the Ohio River very often. A company called Self-Sustaining Enterprises (SSE) is looking to fill that void with an innovative practice that will bring locally grown, organic fish to the Cincinnati region.

Based in Mason, Ohio, SSE started an aquaponic tank in Jos, Nigeria and is now bringing the prototype to Cincinnati. The aquaponics system works by combining fish farming techniques with hydroponics to create a faux river ecosystem.

Fish fingerlings (perch, catfish, and tilapia in this case) are then grown in the tank. The waste from the fish – ammonia and nitrates -provides food for the plants that are on the surface of the tank where they purify the water by soaking up the nitrates and ammonia.

“Aquaponics is perfect for an urban community,” said Self-Sustaining Enterprises CEO Chuck Proudfit. “We can raise fresh fish and vegetables in a high-density fashion, harvest and deliver them the same day.”

Proudfit says that the goal of the project is to provide fresh fish and produce to local restaurants, food co-ops, and other sources. The locally sourced fish would then leave a smaller carbon footprint behind than fish shipped in from other parts of the world. Another benefit of the system, experts say, is the elimination of the risk of harmful runoff common amongst fish farms.

“With an aquaponic tank the problem [of harmful runoff] is eliminated due to merging aquaculture and hydroponics into a closed-loop system,” explained Pete West, an engineer with Procter & Gamble who donated funds to the endeavor. As West explains, water then only has to be replaced due to evaporation or the removal of solid waste at the bottom of the tank.

Aquaponics is not a complete slam dunk however. Unlike a natural habitat for a fish there is a risk of overcrowding since the fish have only a few hundred feet to swim. This overcrowding makes it necessary for the nitrate, ammonia and pH levels to be checked daily. The more fish that are added to the confined habitat increases the likelihood of high nitrate and ammonia levels – which could cause illness among people consuming the fish.

SSE’s 700-gallon aquaponics project in Cincinnati is operational now, and has the ability to produce 1,000 pounds of fish and fresh produce. Company leaders say that both the fish and produce are growing well and should be available within six to twelve months.

This story was researched and written by UrbanCincy contributor Hailey Mahan. If you are interested in becomming an UrbanCincy contributor please email your resume and field of interest to

Development News Opinion

Mercer Commons: A history of 1314 Vine

Seth Schott writes and runs OTR Matters, a blog centered on the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati. For more OTR-centric musings, check out the Over-the-Rhine blog, as well as OTR Matters on Facebook and Twitter.

Yesterday, OTR-resident and blogger CityKin wrote a post about 1314 Vine Street titled “Does this building stay or go“. The thoughts and its comments are an informative read and a good introduction to the subject of this post.

1314 Vine Street; photo credit: CityKin

The current Mercer Commons plan

The time is now to discuss the fate of 1314 Vine Street and the current design of the planned Mercer Commons development by the public-private Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) in the Gateway Quarter.

Mercer Commons is a planned development of new construction urban infill and historic restorations in the area surrounding Mercer Street in Over-the-Rhine. The development is bounded by Vine Street to the west, Walnut Street to the east, 14th Street to the north and the northern half of the 1300 blocks of Vine and Walnut Streets. It is an exciting opportunity to turn another corner (excuse the cliché) in OTR’s revitalization.

Footprint of Mercer Commons showing position of 1314 Vine Street in yellow box

In the footprint rendering above, one can see the position of 1314 Vine Street highlighted by the yellow square. If you look closely, you can see the driveway entrance to the parking garage (gray boxes in the middle of that block) lines up directly with 1314 Vine Street.

Other renderings (perhaps older or newer?) shows the following:

Mercer Commons looking east with Vine Street in foreground. Fate of 1314 Vine Street unknown.

It appears that 3CDC is not planning to save 1314 Vine Street, despite that the building has a historic facade and unique and beautiful stone cornice.

The History of 1314 Vine Street

According to the Hamilton County Auditor’s website, 1314 Vine St. was built in 1880 though the date is probably a best guess. The property was transferred from Cincinnati Public Schools to OTR Holdings Inc, a subsidiary of 3CDC, on August 11, 2008. It is a two story structure with what appears to be a cast iron storefront and a beautiful cornice. The original brick exterior has been covered in Dryvit or stucco and painted an odious shade of mauve, which apparently manifested itself during the structures days as a dance club in the recent past. The current configuration of front windows is not original as will be explained later with an examination of the 1904 Sanborn insurance maps.

The peaked roof is topped by raised glass skylights that run the length of the building, see image from Bing Maps below.


The Sanborn Map Company’s insurance maps of Cincinnati from 1904 show this building. They reveal some interesting facts:

Overview of the east side of the 1300 block of Vine and the west side of the 1300 block of Walnut
A closer view
1314 Vine Street according to 1904 Sanborn Insurance Map with illustration of raised glass roof

In the last Sanborn Map image, you can see the bay windows on the front of the building facing Vine Street. The inclusion of the “CITY MISSION” label is puzzling, but may point some ardent historian toward another chapter of this building’s history.

In 1919, volume 31 of The Machinists’ Monthly Journal, Official Organ of the International Association of Machinists shows 1314 Vine Street as the “District Lodge of the Grand Lodge of the International Association of Machinists”.

The issues

There are two issues at play in the fate of 1314 Vine Street. The first is the fate of the building itself at 1314 Vine Street. The second issue is larger and concerns the role historic preservation plays in the redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine. How important is each stitch in OTR’s historic fabric? It’d be enlightening to hear the opinions on these issues from 3CDC, the Over-the-Rhine Foundation, the Cincinnati Preservation Association, individual citizens, and others.

3CDC is to be lauded for its successes, and Mercer Commons could be a true triumph for OTR. However, if 3CDC chooses to demolish 1314 Vine Street by way of a “special exemption“, it will become in no small measure, but a part of the problem it purportedly seeks to remedy. Determining the fate of 1314 Vine Street would be better addressed sooner rather than later.


Editor’s note: The Enquirer posted an article delving into more detail about the project, which is an interesting read. There seem to be two sides to the argument: one – every historic building is worth saving, and as much as possible should be done to preserve the fabric, no matter the cost. two – sometimes sacrifices need to be made.

The National Historic Registry has been contacted – I’m interested in finding out exactly what it means for OTR’s historic registry status with continued property demolitions and whether or not more demolitions truly threaten the status. Will update with more information as it is received.

So, Mercer Commons: an unacceptable demolition or a necessary evil for the greater good of the neighborhood? We welcome your thoughts.

News Opinion

Recognizing cultural diversity key to Cincinnati’s future

[This week Zachary Schunn submitted the following guest editorial to UrbanCincy. If you would like to share your thoughts or opinions on a given topic, please send them to – Randy.]

“Where did you go to high school?”

Undoubtedly, if you have spent any length of time in Cincinnati someone has asked you this question. And if you grew up in the area, you have likely asked it of someone else.

Some people may ask this question as a way to reminisce about simpler times. But more often than not, the question is a means of categorizing someone. Is this person from the more industrial west side, or the more developed east side? Is this person accustomed to urban or suburban living? Is he/she from a religious family? A wealthy family?

This means of categorization seems innocent enough. Using a simple question to help learn more about a person is a valuable tool. Additional questions can be asked to glean greater insights into how that person’s native neighborhood helped shape his/her personality and upbringing. However, this categorization by neighborhoods often results from and further perpetuates the stereotypes that exist with certain area neighborhoods. And, perhaps worst of all, it makes an outsider new to the area feel even more like an outsider when the follow-up to the above question is, “Oh, you’re not from Cincinnati, are you?”

Of course, in a larger sense there is nothing wrong with identifying area neighborhoods by the noticeable differences between physical layout, architecture, culture, and/or demographics. The problem that seems to occur all too often in Cincinnati, though, is that these identification techniques are used to spread negative stereotypes about places and their inhabitants. While residents of a neighborhood may feel a certain pride towards that location, commonly this pride brings them to the belief that they are better than anyone else from an “inferior” neighborhood.

Am I exaggerating? Think of some of the stereotypes you may have heard. West Chester residents are spoiled. Those from Mason, or Anderson Township, or some other suburb do not really value Cincinnati’s urban core. Hyde Park residents are rich snobs. Northsiders are either all homosexuals or all yuppies and drug addicts. Over-the-Rhine is only full of poor blacks and newly-borne “hipsters” ignorant of the area’s history. And I’m not even going to touch on what I’ve heard people say about Northern Kentuckians.

Let’s stop right there. I’ll admit: I did not grow up in Cincinnati, so I am somewhat less in-tune to the stereotypes. Even so, I have caught on quickly that residents like to pit themselves against one another.

This is not a rare phenomenon. But, let’s compare this occurrence to another city for a minute: New York City, most specifically the borough of Manhattan. Anyone who visits this city for a brief time will quickly make a very interesting observation. Though New York City is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the world, its neighborhoods are still highly segregated. A visitor knows when he/she is in Harlem, Little Italy, El Barrio, Chinatown, or Greenwich Village. However, this segregation is used to celebrate the individual cultures that make up the city. Unique foods and shops align the streets of such neighborhoods. Festivals highlight the positives of each neighborhood, while negative stereotypes do not comprise everyday conversations to the extent that they do in Cincinnati.

Of course, Cincinnati can never compare in size or diversity to New York City. However, the concept of celebrating individual neighborhoods is still a valid concept that should be more aggressively pursued in order to erase the negative stereotypes that dominate conversations and create positive ones for the city.

The easiest way to change attitudes is to better recognize and honor the cultural history and diversity of the city. This can be achieved through “marketing” campaigns (tourist pamphlets, road signs, etc.), cultural centers, and/or special events and festivals. Such is already done extensively to celebrate the city’s strong German heritage. One cannot claim that the city has failed in this respect.

However, what about the other cultural and ethnic segments? The strong Irish-American heritage seems largely ignored, save for a pub here or there. There are large Greek and Jewish populations in the city that get little recognition. Though there is a small Italian festival in Cheviot every year, otherwise most other European immigrant classes and their importance to the city’s history are shunned. Further, what about the growing classes of Asian and Latino residents? Uptown boasts large segments of both eastern Asian (Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc.) and Indian residents. Surely, the mixture of Asian and Indian restaurants in the Clifton and CUF areas helps to represent these groups of people. But would it not be a terrific goal to begin some cultural event that further honors these newcomers and welcomes them as Cincinnati residents rather than regarding them as outsiders?

Ethnicity is just one demographic variable that defines citizens and shapes differences between people in an area. Cultural values can also shape neighborhoods. For example, the underground art and music scenes in Cincinnati are phenomenal, and are well represented by downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Northside, and—to a lesser extent—Mt. Adams. These and other neighborhoods should continue to capitalize on this strength, and develop “niches” for different art and music scenes in different neighborhoods.

On another note, the city’s complex history is part of what makes it great. But why is the most historical focus placed upon downtown and Over-the-Rhine? What about the great history of residences in Corryville, Mt. Auburn, or Walnut Hills? What about the unfortunate demolition that occurred due to interstate construction in the West End and Mt. Adams? Could this not be better emphasized as a way to both celebrate the neighborhoods’ history and call for a more optimistic and respectful future?

Other cultural differences exist between neighborhoods that could be further highlighted and/or expanded. On a positive note, the LGBT community has managed to highlight Northside (as well as Clifton, to a lesser extent) as an open and accepting community. Is there any reason why this openness, not just to the LGBT community but to diverse groups of people in general, could not occur in other neighborhoods? Further, what about the strong sense of ecology that is shown in some neighborhoods that could positively spread to others? For example, why isn’t there more of an interest in or draw to Price Hill’s Ecovillage? Cincinnati’s great park system has been written about extensively, but why do certain neighborhoods not do more to utilize these parks? For instance, some neighborhood parks at the peaks of “hills” offer some astounding views of Cincinnati. Also, more specifically, some parks such as Burnet Woods in Uptown seem underutilized, and it is unfathomable why Cincinnati does not better vocalize Mt. Airy Forest’s great hiking trails.

I have already listed a plethora of examples of missed opportunities to more positively portray the citizens, places, and events within area neighborhoods. Surely, there are many more. But the larger point is this: if the cultural diversity, great history, and interesting landmarks already exist in neighborhoods, it does not take massive development or great political upheavals to make people love the city; it only takes a change in attitude. So, instead of bickering over which area high schools are best, or why east-siders are better than west-siders, or why the young/old/liberal/conservative/rich/poor/white/black/[name your stereotype] people of the city are “ruining” everything, let’s focus instead of what makes any city great: its variety and diversity.

For in reality, as much as many of us (myself included) wish for this or that development, change, etc., we all know deep down that despite its “flaws” (whatever each of us individually considers such flaws to be), Cincinnati is a great city with a lot to offer. Thus, by better recognizing and marketing what is great about the different neighborhoods in our city, we can begin to change what is often an overall negative attitude into a positive one. A positive attitude should draw new residents into the city, and help them feel accepted and wanted, thus helping our city grow and prosper like any great city should.

Consciously and sub-consciously, shouldn’t this be what we are all striving towards?

At least until football season starts again. Then everyone can go back to arguing about which area high school is best.

Zachary Schunn is a recent graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Architecture program at the University of Cincinnati, and is currently completing the Master of Business Administraion program at UC, with a concentration in Real Estate Development. He has a growing interest and expertise in sustainable urban architecture and development, and is committed to seeing its growth in Cincinnati.

News Opinion

Cincinnati Brain Drain: Neil Clingerman

For those of you who don’t already know, over the last 10 to 20 years a large part of one of Cincinnati’s most historic neighborhoods has been lost. Back when I was in college, around 2005 or so, block after block of old houses were destroyed around the University of Cincinnati in order to develop new housing for students and young professionals. One of the hardest hit areas was Corryville, where literally about every other morning I’d be woken up by the high pitched sounds of construction equipment tearing through layer after layer of solidly built brick.

At that point in time Cincinnati was at a low point: the riots were still fresh in everyone’s memory, crime was way up, many cool places had shutdown due to “slowed business” and anyone who was young was jaded about what Cincinnati had to offer to those of us not enamored of living the suburban lifestyle.

These demolitions are what made me the most bitter about the city. When I was a kid, I lived in Warren County, and visited both Dayton and Cincinnati with my parents. Dayton was never a draw for me – it kind of felt just like many other older towns I also visited, like Columbus, or Indianapolis.

Cincinnati was different. I loved the city; it felt like a visualization of how a “big city” was always presented as in popular media, with its many densely built brick townhouses and apartments, and it felt like the place I could go to escape the overly manicured, sterile and cold humdrum of suburbia.

When presented with an option of what university I wanted to go to, part of my decision was based upon living in Cincinnati because of its character and urbanity. These demolitions took away that character and replaced it with something I could find in the suburb I grew up in. As a result I wanted very badly to leave and I did in 2007 after graduating. I felt as though Cincinnati had no future as it was throwing away its best asset, its built environment.

In talking with people down in Cincinnati about the city, over and over again I got the same opinion; “This place sucks”, “Cincinnati is no fun”, “This place doesn’t have anything to offer me as a young person”. When I presented to people how beautiful the architecture was they’d respond with a shrug. One person I knew even proposed turning OTR into a giant parking lot.

All of this negativity made me feel like I was powerless to make a difference against the march of redevelopment that was being lead by developers like Uptown Properties to turn Corryville from a classy but somewhat run down urban neighborhood, into a suburban-like wasteland of student apartment complexes and the occasional “fast casual restaurant”.

Fast forward a few years later. I’ve traveled to almost all of the great cities in the US, and now live in one of them; Chicago. While Chicago is great, I kept wanting to find a neighborhood that was like a restored Over-the-Rhine or Corryville. While there are places that come close, nothing really has the classic grandeur of those neighborhoods in Cincinnati. Traveling to the East Coast was a different story. I was met with large areas in famous cities like Boston and New York City that felt like larger and more lively versions of what I left behind in southwest Ohio.

Recently I decided use to Google StreetView to see how many US cities actually had the kind of built form and character Cincinnati had. Upon doing this, I found a lot more “Indianapolises” than “Cincinnatis”. I came to the conclusion that almost all the other cities that had Cincinnati’s level of urban character were nationally known places; Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans, Boston, San Francisco, and parts of Brooklyn.

I found out that Cincinnati was in the same league as major tourist destinations that drew tourists and residents alike to them for their beautiful old buildings. The question I began to ask was, why is Cincinnati not part of the party? Why is Cincinnati not thought of in the national consciousness at least at the level of Savannah as a place to go to be immersed in an old beautiful urban environment?

I felt that the answer was that Cincinnatians don’t care enough about their amazing assets to really use then to their full potential, and that the nonchalant way that Corryville was being demolished block by block was a symptom of one of the city’s biggest ills.

More recently, I’ve noticed an increased awareness and interest in Cincinnati’s history. With this increased awareness I took a few tours of OTR when I was in town, and realized just how important Cincinnati was in its heyday. This renewed interest in Cincinnati’s history, combined with a growing preservationist movement, made me passionate to work towards righting the wrongs that were committed against my old neighborhood in Cincinnati – Corryville.

It is up to city council, the city manager, and the mayor to fix the regulations currently in place that allow our historic buildings to be torn down at such an alarming rate. Ensuring that these wrongs that are being committed against the urban assets that could make Cincinnati a nationally known city, be stopped dead in their tracks.

If you show your support towards preservation and against demolitions, Cincinnati would be in a far better position to sell itself as one of the most beautiful places in the Midwest. If developers like Uptown Properties continue to get their way, Cincinnati will be a fading memory, a once grand proud city, dying away, slowly being turned into a wasteland of failed projects and failed dreams- a place that is no longer unique or culturally significant on a national scale.

Last weekend, I was talking with friends about how our generation handles civic duty. In this discussion, I brought up the activism I’ve been working on for preservation in Cincinnati. A waitress in her 20s or early 30s, paused and asked me to provide more detail. She then told me that she used to live in Cincinnati and was shocked anyone down there actually believed in how amazing the city’s built environment was and how it could be used to the city’s advantage.

She had felt that the attitude in Cincinnati was one of destroying it all, and was afraid that rumors she had heard of Over-the-Rhine being completely demolished would come true. She finally felt that if the city and its citizens actually cared about what made Cincinnati great, then maybe people like me and her wouldn’t be chased away from it. It was an interesting random encounter I had up in Chicago that made an excellent point. Cincinnati is losing population, enough people don’t like living there that they want to leave. The question that should be asked instead is what can Cincinnati do to make itself draw people again? The answer lies in part in preservation of its best asset: its historic architecture.

Here I am in Chicago. I could very easily not care about Cincinnati anymore as I don’t live there. Yet, Cincinnati is so unique as a city that it should do everything in its power to preserve that uniqueness. This uniqueness makes it not only an issue of local significance but of national significance too, as neglect of its high quality old buildings will cause this country to lose one of its greatest treasures.

The city council meeting earlier this week was exactly about this kind of issue. It’s about preserving the beauty of Cincinnati so that everyone in this country can enjoy it and consider living in it, and so that people who live in and around Cincinnati can be proud of it’s grand old buildings like the ones slated for demolition in Corryville as a hallmark feature of their great city.

Neil Clingerman is a 27-year-old IT professional working in the Financial Industry who lives in Chicago, but never fully took his heart away from Cincinnati. He was born and raised in southwest Ohio, and moved to Chicago after graduating from college in 2007 at the University of Cincinnati with a BBA in Information Systems. He describes himself as someone who is passionate about many different subjects including history, cities, politics and culture.